There's nothing quite like having a few pals over and playing a hectic local multiplayer game. If that sounds like your idea of a good time then TowerFall Ascension will make a great addition to your gaming library but does it offer more than just a few rounds of fun?
I've been a fan of TowerFall ever since it debuted on Ouya back in 2013. Since then, it has evolved significantly and was ported to a few mainstream consoles under the title TowerFall Ascension. Now that it's available on Xbox One, I figured it would be a good time for me to finally review it.
For the unfamiliar, TowerFall is played by running and jumping around single-screen arenas while avoiding and attacking your foes. These are no ordinary stages, however, as their borders wrap: fall through the ground and show up at the top, walk through the right wall and arrive at the left. Considering one hit will end your life, you must constantly be on your toes. It's a good thing there's a dodge button! In order to take out your enemies, you can either jump on their heads or shoot an arrow at them. After holding a button to charge, aiming, and firing an arrow; you need to run to collect it because you have a very limited supply of them. This simple yet fast-paced formula is ideal for chaotic multiplayer action and can make for quite an exciting contest between you and your friends.
As you can see, TowerFall is yet another retro-inspired pixelated indie game with a 4:3 aspect ratio. However, that isn't a bad thing. The characters are animated well and pop off the screen while the environments look fantastic yet never make gameplay convoluted. On top of this, the effects are great as they sound like they were lifted straight from an early '80s arcade game. It's games like this that make me realise why the retro aesthetic is as popular as it is. Simply put, it just makes the game more fun.
When it comes to modes, you can play either competitively or cooperatively. Versus mode can be enjoyed by 2 to 4 simultaneous players and includes last man standing, headhunters, and team deathmatch game types. To help mix things up, there is an impressively comprehensive variants menu that allows you to tinker with the basic rules in order to change up the gameplay. Doing so forces the players to implement new strategies. For example, you can toggle various treasure and arrow types, have players start with certain power-ups, make the floors slippery, and mess with the arena layouts. It's awesome that you can alter these aspects because it definitely adds a significant amount of replay value. That being said, TowerFall is still a very simple game at its core so the fun factor starts to wear thin after a handful of matches. Because of that, it's best played in short sessions between other local multiplayer games.
Co-op mode can be played with 1 to 4 simultaneous players. If you're going it alone, this will likely be your preferred mode. All you do is work your way through stage after stage while fending off various enemies. Honestly, I can think of plenty of other 2D arena combat games that are much better than this mode (Extreme Exorcism and Super Mutant Alien Assault to name a couple). To elaborate, it's simply too basic to have lasting appeal. You could always tackle the single player time trials. These can be tough and as a result, the majority of the time that you attempt them will be spent figuring out the most efficient way to master them. As you can tell, the multiplayer portion is much more fun than any of the featured single player content.
TowerFall Ascension is a highly recommended game for those looking for another frantic local multiplayer experience to add to their collection. However, if you're a lone wolf then there are plenty of superior 2D arena combat games on the market.
- + Basic yet fast-paced gameplay that's perfect for multiplayer chaos
- + Great retro visuals and sound
- + Versus variants help mix things up
- - Single player content is limited and far less satisfying than multiplayer
- - Simplistic gameplay setup is only enjoyable in short gaming sessions